Travelling with Minors – A Major Headache?

Much has been written lately about South Africa’s new requirements for travelling with minor children, more particularly when borders are traversed. Most of the viewpoints you’ve likely come across point to the inefficiencies of this new system, the negative impact on tourism, and tout this as yet further evidence of the gradual crumbling of the system. The challenges are indeed apparent and well-understood.

But while belabouring the woes of the department that is Home Affairs, we urge you to consider the other, more murky, and indeed far scarier side of this coin: Human Trafficking is real. Countless innocent children become victims of human trafficking worldwide each year. So while these regulations may give the haters yet further ammunition, bear in mind that this isn’t some wild hair-brained idea dreamt up by an ignorant, bureaucratic fat-cat. These regulations are being introduced to protect our children. Whether it’s the right approach or a workable approach remains to be seen. But it’s an approach. And if nothing else, it has raised awareness of the plight of the children that this law is designed to protect.

So unless you’re planning on swimming the ocean, digging under fences, or braving the lions of Kruger, here’s the low down on the matter, which will hopefully make life just that bit simpler for you. As from 1 June 2015, according to the regulations to the Immigration Act, the following will be required: Parents travelling internationally with children will be requested to provide, in addition to their passport, an unabridged birth certificate (which includes the details of the child’s father as well as the mother) for each travelling minor child. This applies even when both parents are travelling with their children and it also applies to foreigners and South Africans alike.

Children travelling with only one parent

When a child travels with only one parent, additional documents include:

  • an Affidavit in which the absent parent gives consent for the child to travel; or
  • a court order granting full parental responsibilities or legal guardianship of the child to the accompanying parent; or
  • the death certificate of the absent parent.

The Affidavit should be no older than 3 months from date of travel. 

Children travelling without either parent

In the case of a child travelling with a person other than a parent, the Unabridged Birth Certificate must be supplemented by:

  • Affidavits from both parents or the legal guardian confirming that the child may travel with that person;
  • copies of the ID documents or passports of the parents or legal guardian; and
  • the contact details of the parents or legal guardian.

Unaccompanied Minor

A child travelling as an unaccompanied minor will have to produce:

  • the Unabridged Birth Certificate;
  • proof of consent from both parents or legal guardians and contact details; and
  • documentation relating to the person receiving the child. This documentation should include a letter stating the person’s contact details and residential address, contact details where the child will be staying, plus a copy of his or her ID document, passport or residence permit. 

Application process for Unabridged Birth Certificates

  • Apply at your nearest Home Affairs office where your Biometric information will be verified.
  • Take your ID book along, as well as your child’s ID number.
  • All documents submitted must be originals or certified copies.
  • The Unabridged Birth Certificate costs R75 (at time of writing).
  • It can take around 8 weeks from the date of application (with reports of the process sometimes taking up to 9 or 10 months) to acquire an Unabridged Birth Certificate.

Who is exempt?

The new law does not apply to

  • Children travelling domestically (E.g. Between Johannesburg and Cape Town).
  • School tours. The Department accepts a letter from the school’s Principal to cover minors on a school tour.
  • Minor passengers on a ‘Cruise to Nowhere’. For example a cruise that departs Durban Harbour and returns to Durban Harbour, or a cruise that goes from Durban Harbour to Cape Town Harbour. If the cruise ship docks in a port outside of South Africa, this exemption won’t apply.

Applying for a child’s passport

When applying for a child’s passport, take along:

  • Both parents, who will need to present their IDs, sign consent and have their fingerprints taken
  • The minor child: you cannot apply for a minor’s passport in his/her absence
  • The child’s birth certificate
  • The application fee (R400 at time of writing)

Photographs are no longer required: they’re captured digitally during the application process.

Yes, it’s frustrating, it’s time-consuming, and there are a few costs involved. But know what’s required, follow the process, and all will be well. And if just one child is saved from human trafficking as a result of this law, is that not worth the schlepp factor involved?

Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.